A Plea for Review and Reversal
Makati Business (MBC), one of the eight influential association and represented by big business in the country, plea for a review and reversal of the decision of Office of the Ombudsman dismissing Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Cesar Chiong and his deputy, Irene Montalbo, was acted upon by the Office of the Ombudsman for reportedly abuse of authority.
The business organizations, in a statement “appeal to the Ombudsman, please reverse this decision” as well as their full hearted “support” to the two beleaguered officials, including Transportation Secretary Jaime B. Bautista, who has supervisory power MIAA.
“What is a normal management practice may discourage other officials from employing this important tool to improve efficiency and fight corruption. It may send the wrong message that instituting reforms in government is hazardous to one’s career.”
Joining MBC were the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Integrity Initiative, Justice Reform Initiative, IT&Business Process Association of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc.
“They have implemented the mission entrusted to them by President Marcos to improve the national international airport and upgrade it to global standards,” the business groups said.
This, as 90 members of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP)
“expressed” their “deep concern and alarm” over the unusual speed at which an anonymous complaint filed against Chiong and his Montalbo, was acted upon by the Ombudsman.
The 90 MAP members include notable former Cabinet officials such as former Executive Secretary Jose Almendras, former Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ceilito Habito, former Public Works and Highway Secretary Fiorello Estuar, former Tourism and Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafel Alunan, former Tourism Secretary Vince Carlos and seasoned bankers Arsenio Bartolome and Enrico Cruz.
The Ombudsman ruled the acts of Chiong and Montalbo constituted “abuse of discretion” and were “prejudicial to the service”. Yet, 800 rank and file airport personnel disagree with the Ombudsman. These employees declared in a public Manifesto that “only now have they experienced transparent and honest management in the agency.”
In a statement, the MAP members noted the “very unusual and surprising speedy treatment” of the case that was based on an “anonymous complaint.” The swift action is in “stark contrast to the snail’s pace at which other recent multi-billion, high-profile, graft and corruption cases are handled.”
From all accounts the decision was “record” breaking “in all accounts. Base on such anonymous complaint, the Ombudsman,in a prompt decion initially suspended Chiong and Montalbo for six months for apparent absue of authority and then ordered their dismissal from the service forthright even before the suspension period expired.
The two statements, issued separately, cited the “exemplary work” exhibited by both MIAA officials
The MAP members questioned ‘why were Mr. Chiong and Ms. Montalbo singled out for extreme punishment as it was stressed that government managers are “expected to adopt best practices for the betterment of public service.
“If they are not allowed to exercise their sound discretion, how could they deliver efficient service and good governance? If they are punished for performing their duties and responsibilities, would this not send a chilling effect and discourage emulation of worthy deeds?”
Such has been done in the past without any problem. Chiong’s predecessors, Gen. Jose Angel Honrado and Eddie Monreal effected a similar reassignment of airport personnel.
During their watch, Honrado and Monreal reassigned 646 and 397 personnel, respectively, in order to achieve efficiencies at the country’s international airports. “They were never accused of misdoings nor were they ever suspended nor dismissed for doing so.”
Available date indicated that Chiong and Montalbo applied sound management discretion to achieve operational efficiencies at the Philippine international airports.
The reassignments gave rise to “substantial positive changes” that have resulted, amongst much else, in the collection of long-outstanding receivables that have helped achieve a robust cash balance of P15 billion.
Their dismissal “becomes even more paradoxical in light of their commendable record of service” as MIAA reported an impressive income of Php1.9 billion in 2022, a striking turnaround from the combined losses of Php3.6 billion suffered in 2020 and 2021.
By any standard, these are remarkable accomplishments that should have merited a promotion or, at the very least, a commendation for a job well done.
“While we recognize the authority and ruling of the Ombudsman, we believe he may have been misinformed in taking this action. We would welcome and support a review by the Ombudsman, to reverse this decision and reinstate Chiong and Montalbo in their positions as general manager and assistant general manager,” the statement said.
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